Almanac: Top of the mortarboard class — Ninilchik school honors run in the families

By Brent Johnson

For the Redoubt Reporter

Spring is in the air, and so is graduation. As we recognize the class of 2013, it might be refreshing to step back and look at the top students of former classes. I’ll begin with Ninilchik School and try to add other schools if readers indicate an interest.

Valedictorian            Salutatorian

1961            David F. Botens            Unknown

Photos courtesy of Dennis and Martha Ogren. 1962 valedictorian Martha Blossom and Martha Blossom Ogren, of Ninilchik, in 2013.

Photos courtesy of Dennis and Martha Ogren. 1962 valedictorian Martha Blossom and Martha Blossom Ogren, of Ninilchik, in 2013.

1962            Martha Blossom            Verda Bice

1963            Daniel Cecil            Unknown

1964            Nancy Tiemann            Chuck Hawkins

1965            Nancy Banta            Unknown

1966            Robert Haakenson            Dave Palmer

1967            Wayne Leman            Mary Sonnichsen

1968            Loren Leman            Kathy Palmer

1969            Mary Haakenson            Colleen McGann

1970            Kathleen Blossom            Carolyn Bishop

1971            Sandy Palmer            Eric Hylen

1972            Jody Jackson            Debra Oskolkoff

grads Martha Ogren 20131973            Peter Stokes            Betty Jean Banta

1974            Jamie Towe            Shirley Wilson

1975            Bruce Kistler            Amy Dimmick

1976            Audrey Benson            Pam Skjold

1977            Bill Wade            Sally Tiemann

1978            Karen Benson            Koreena Hostetter

1979            Shelly Hansen            Mark Skjold

1980            Zetta Ostrander            Delores Anderson

Photos courtesy of Wayne Leman. 1967 valedictorian Wayne Leman and Wayne Leman in 2012.

Photos courtesy of Wayne Leman. 1967 valedictorian Wayne Leman and Wayne Leman in 2012.

1981            Lori Romphe            Eric Skjold

1982            Donnava Ostrander            Sonja Miller

1983            Richie Bartolowits            Norbert Miller

1984            Waynel Ostrander and Erica Miller   David O’Dell

1985            Ronna Lindeman            Dawn O’Dell

1986            David Bear            Tina Santos

1987            Kristi A. Lindeman            David Rabbage

1988            Tammy Steik            Steven Cook

1989            Kelli Jo Lindeman            Brandy Macy

1990            Corene Rabbage            Chris Strubegrads Wayne Leman 2012

1991            Brenda Rosga            Jess McKeller

1992            Kerri Roe            Brian Covey

1993            Tristan Miller            Kyle Rice

1994            Janel Rosga            Thomas Bell

1995            Ivan Encelewski            Angela Lindeman

1996            Mandi Bock            Theresa Thomas

1997            Jacob Ortman            Andy Matthews

1998            Michelle Chihuly            Katie Schaetzle

Photos courtesy of Mary Haakenson Perry. 1969  valedictorian Mary Haakenson and Mary Haakenson Perry, of Anchor Point, recently.

Photos courtesy of Mary Haakenson Perry. 1969 valedictorian Mary Haakenson and Mary Haakenson Perry, of Anchor Point, recently.

1999            Dean Schwin            Finely Bock

2000            Theresa Chihuly            Corina Sullivan

2001            Gretchen Garroutte            Bridgette Cuffe

2002            Katie Schollenberg            Janelle Moerlein

2003            Whitney Leman            Kasey Panhuise

2004            Katie Moerlein            Jason Schollenberg

2005            Patrick Tilbury            Katerina Hall

2006            Brenden Cuffe            Lauren Wolford

2007            Kjersten Skjold            Krista Leman

2008            Heidi Skjold            Ashley Bartolowits

2009            Grace Ehlers            Cody Presley

grads Mary Haakenson Perry2010            Dillon Covey            Lauren Boone

2011            Cayla Rogers            Michelle Bartolowits

2012            Stephanie Blank            Destini Riley

2013            Kaylee Anne Smith            David Ryan Bear

In some cases the best of the mortarboards run in families. John and Delores Lindeman produced three valedictorians, Ronna, Kristi and Kelly, and a salutatorian, Angela. Frank and Roswitha Miller had two valedictorians, Erica and Tristan, as well as two salutatorians, Sonja and Norbert. Sonja is one of the more interesting girls to grace this list. For many years she has been a member of a convent, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Wichita, Kan.

Photos courtesy of the Bear family. 1986 valedictorian David Michael Bear, 1988 valedictorian Tammy Steik (now Tammy Bear), and 2013 salutatorian David Ryan Bear.

Photos courtesy of the Bear family. 1986 valedictorian David Michael Bear, 1988 valedictorian Tammy Steik (now Tammy Bear), and 2013 salutatorian David Ryan Bear.

The Skjold name reaches our register with a high five. Pam, Mark and Erik were salutatorians, but here is where details get complicated. Their mother, Marilyn, had a blended family with Wayne Ostrander. Wayne’s daughters Zeta, Donnava and Waynel, each were valedictorians. As time spun Erik Skjold married Joy Borgman, and one generation later their daughters, Kjersten and Heidi, became valedictorians. Thus, the Skjold-Ostrander family etched eight names on this list.

The Leman name appears four times. Nick and Marian Leman’s sons, Wayne and Loren, were both valedictorians. Loren may be the most famous valedictorian from any peninsula school, having been Alaska’s lieutenant governor.

Nick’s brother, Harry, has a son, Dan (the famous girls basketball coach), who married valedictorian Jamie Towe. Dan and Jamie’s daughters both made our list, Whitney as valedictorian and Krista as salutatorian. Jamie’s half sister, Tammy Steik (their mother was Edna Steik), was a valedictorian. Tammy married valedictorian David Michael Bear and their son, David Ryan Bear, is the 2013 salutatorian.

grads Bear Tammy Steik-.Validictorian. Graduation 1988 001Salutatorian Shirley Wilson married Butch Schollenberg, and they have valedictorian Katie and salutatorian Jason. In 2009, Jason Schollenberg married Whitney Leman, to become the second pair from our list to wed.

Edna Steik relates to each of these pairs, as Tammy’s mother and Whitney’s grandmother.

Sen. Bob and Sue Palmer thrice put their name on the list. Their Dave and Kathy were salutatorians and their Sandy was valedictorian. Floyd and Marion Blossom had Martha and Kathleen, who were valedictorians.

Ernie and Laura Lee Tiemann had Nancy, who was a valedictorian, and Sally, a salutatorian. Elmer and Barbara Banta had Nancy, who was a valedictorian, and Betty Jean, a salutatorian. Lionel and Esther Haakenson had Robert and Mary, both valedictorians. Bud and Pauline Benson had Audrey and Karen, who were valedictorians.

grad Bear 3 David Ryan .Saluditorian.Graduation 2013David and Delores O’Dell have David and Dawn, who were salutatorians. Dan and Sandy Rosga have valedictorians Brenda and Janel (whose mother is Dorthy). Mike and Shirley Chihuly have Michelle and Theresa, both valedictorians. Michelle played college hockey on a girls team.

The Bock name appears twice, with cousins — valedictorian Mandi Bock is Roger and Shareen Bock’s daughter, and salutatorian Finely Bock is Craig and Helena Bock’s son. A third Bock cousin, Patrick Tilbury, is a valedictorian, son of Steve and Patty Tilbury.

Tim and Kristine Moerlein had salutatorian, Janelle, and valedictorian, Katie. Emil and Fran Bartolowits had valedictorian Richie. Another of the sons, Paul Bartolowits, and his wife, LaRae, have their Ashley and Michelle. Bob and Diane Covey’s son, Brian, was a salutatorian; and Bob’s nephew, Tracy, and his wife, Sheila, have a valedictorian son, Dillon.

Photo courtesy of Frank and Roswitha Miller. From left are Erica Miller, Norbert Miller, Sonja Miller and Tristan Miller, seen recently.

Photo courtesy of Frank and Roswitha Miller. From left are Erica Miller, Norbert Miller, Sonja Miller and Tristan Miller, seen recently.

Being familiar with many of these families, I notice a common denominator — church. For instance, the Lindeman, Miller, Chihuly, Rosga and Bartolowits families are Catholics, the Skjold-Ostranders and O’Dells came out of a Quaker background and lived, while their children were in high school, in a Christian commune. The Haakensons were faithful members of the Anchor Point Church of Christ, Marian Leman was a missionary and her family attended the Baptist Church, and the Blossoms, Bantas and Palmers went to the Methodist Church.

Is there a reason why churchgoing families might excel at education? I’ll let readers answer that.

Girl gender seems to be another advantage. Ladies made the list 70 times and boys but 34 times.

Achieving academic honor is, of course, no guarantee for a successful life. Some of the people on this list have had struggles, and one is sadly dead after a party that went awry. But topping the mortarboard class is a lasting honor that, for many, was a step forward in a meaningful life.

Brent Johnson, of Clam Gulch, is a former president of the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association.

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2 Comments

Filed under Almanac, Ninilchik

2 responses to “Almanac: Top of the mortarboard class — Ninilchik school honors run in the families

  1. Don Curry

    Interesting article Brent, thanks.

  2. David Palmer

    Thanks, Brent, for digging into the history of our community, for honoring these academic achievements, and perhaps most importantly, for highlighting strong family bonds and the solid spiritual foundations upon which they were developed. Great writing — Bravo! David Palmer, Wichita, KS

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